Tennis player with tennis elbow

At Home Treatments For Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition characterized by pain and tenderness around the elbow joint. Despite its name, this ailment isn’t exclusive to tennis players – it can affect anyone who performs repetitive arm and wrist movements, such as gardeners, carpenters, or office workers. Fortunately, there are several effective at-home treatments to alleviate tennis elbow symptoms and promote healing.

At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, we understand how this persistent discomfort can hinder your daily activities. We can help you explore practical and accessible remedies to manage pain and recover from tennis elbow without leaving the comfort of your home. Please contact us if you need more help and information. We can discuss additional treatment options and schedule a consultation when you’re ready to work with our dedicated team.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow impacts the tendons that connect the elbow to the forearm muscles. This tendon experiences wear and tear and is commonly seen in tennis players who regularly exercise this area of the body. NJ Spine and Orthopedic is here to help you understand this condition and your treatment options.

Why Should You Treat Tennis Elbow?

If you have tennis elbow, treatment is essential. The affected tendon is used for several functions in your body, meaning a lack of treatment could negatively impact your overall quality of life.

Your elbow is a hinge joint. The strong bone of the humerus (or upper arm) meets with the more delicate bones of the forearm (i.e., the ulna and radius) to create the elbow. With the aid of tendons and muscles, your elbow can flex or extend the forearm. It can also rotate the radius to let you turn your hand palm-side up.

How is Tennis Elbow Different From Golfer’s Elbow?

The humerus also contains knuckle-like protrusions known as epicondyles. These bony knobs serve as points of attachment for the tendons that connect to the forearm muscles. If the tendons that attach to your lateral epicondyle rip, tennis elbow is the result. If the tendons that fasten to your medial epicondyle tear, doctors refer to this condition as golfer’s elbow.

The primary difference between the two?

With tennis elbow, the tendons that attach to your extensor muscles, like the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB), suffer damage. With golfer’s elbow, the tendons that connect to your flexor muscles are the culprit.

What Are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

If you have tennis elbow, then you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Pain on the outside of the arm, above the lateral epicondyle on the humerus
  • Morning stiffness in the elbow, arm, or wrist
  • Sore forearm muscles
  • Loss of grip strength in the hands
  • Difficulty rotating the radius (or forearm)
  • Pain while straightening out the elbow, shaking hands, forming a first, or performing other movements associated with elbow extension or wrist rotation

Do these symptoms sound like you? If you’re not a tennis player, you might be surprised to find out that they do. However, anyone who works in a field that relies heavily on elbow extension can experience this set of problems. In particular, plumbers, painters, chefs, butchers, and carpenters develop tennis elbow more often than members of the general population.

Pain Management Tips for Treating Tennis Elbow at Home

90% of individuals who develop tennis elbow can successfully treat their condition at home or with conservative treatments, like physical therapy.

If you have a mild case of tennis elbow, then you can try some helpful at-home remedies:

Try The “RICE” Method

RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, & elevation. When the inflammation of tennis elbow first arises, try to refrain from activities (like painting) that rely heavily on the use of the forearm muscles. Your doctor may even recommend that you wear a splint or brace to force immobilization of the elbow.

For the first two to three days, apply ice packs to the elbow and forearm for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day. At the four-day mark, try to apply alternating rounds of ice and heat. Now that the swelling has gone down, the heat will draw blood (rich in healing nutrients) to the tendon. As needed, elevate the arm or use loose compression wraps to reduce any swelling.

The RICE method is a natural way to support healing in the affected area, as it motivates repair. The RICE method can also be performed at home, meaning there are fewer reasons to go to the doctor.

Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Try over-the-counter NSAIDs, like aspirin or ibuprofen, to manage your pain. Keep in mind that you can always upgrade to steroid injections or prescription-strength medications if OTC drugs do not prove sufficient relief.

Other pain relievers may also help, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Eat a Diet Rich in Anti-Inflammatory Foods

If you want to avoid pain relievers and would like to go a more natural route, then modify your diet to include anti-inflammatory foods. Some of the top anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Fruits like pineapples, cherries, and berries
  • Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, or Swiss chard
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, or mackerel
  • Nuts, like walnuts or almonds
  • Healthy oils, like coconut or olive oil
  • Superfoods, like apple cider vinegar
  • Antioxidant-rich foods, like beets
  • Fragrant spices, like ginger or turmeric

Other anti-inflammatory foods and supplements may also be helpful. However, we recommend you speak with a doctor before drastically changing your diet to ensure you still get the necessary nutrients.

Use Essential Oils

Another natural home remedy is to apply certain essential oils as topicals to the elbow. This usually involves diluting several drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil (like coconut or olive oil) or water. For best results, always follow package instructions. Ideal oils to treat tennis elbow include peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, and cypress essential oils.

In case of an allergic reaction, we encourage you to test essential oils on a small area of your body. You can also speak with your doctor about other natural treatment options.

Exercises & Stretches for Tennis Elbow

After you have overcome the acute pain of tennis elbow, rest is usually not recommended for your condition. Research shows that gentle exercise can break up adhesions and reduce the pain of tennis elbow in the long run.

For the best results, always consult your doctor before implementing an exercise plan. We can break down a few of our favorite exercises and stretches to aid in the healing process for tennis elbow.

Ball Squeeze

Holding a tennis or rubber ball in your upturned palm, squeeze the ball for 5 seconds at a time, then release. Repeat this exercise for three sets of 10. Although somewhat simple, this exercise will help you regain lost hand grip strength.

Wrist Flexor Exercise

Rest your arm with your elbow fully extended on a flat table. Make sure that your palm is turned upward and that your wrist and hand are the only parts of your arm that extend beyond the edge of the table. Gripping a small weight (3 – 5 pounds) in your outstretched palm, slowly lift your wrist toward your body and then drop it slowly. As before, repeat this exercise for three sets of 10.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

Extend your arm in front of you with your elbow fully straightened but your palm facing downward. Using your opposite hand, gently pull the fingers of your affected hand down and toward the body. Hold this position for at least 20 seconds, then release. Repeat 3 – 5 times. This exercise will stretch the extensor muscles in your forearm, allowing you to straighten out your wrist.

Isometric Wrist Extension

With your arm fully extended, elbow straight, and palm facing downward, enlist the help of a partner to create gentle resistance. While you try to bend your wrist backward (with fingers pointing to the ceiling), your partner will use their hand to oppose your movement. Resist this force for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat exercise 10 – 12 times.

When All Else Fails: When to Speak to an Elbow Specialist for Further Tennis Elbow Treatment

So, you’ve tried the RICE method, over-the-counter medications, and simple stretches. You’ve even hit up your local health food store and put a temporary halt to activities that aggravate your elbow joint, like playing tennis. But, when it comes to alleviating your elbow pain, you’ve had no luck. If you’ve been at it for a couple of weeks without witnessing results, it’s time to consult your local elbow specialist.

Fortunately, a board-certified orthopedist has many tricks up their sleeve – not all of these involve surgery. An elbow expert can help you network with the right professionals – like physical therapists – who can relieve your pain.

If your pain doesn’t decrease after six weeks of conservative measures, then you may want to consider surgery. A minimally invasive procedure, like elbow arthroscopy, is a sure-fire method to permanently silence your pain.

We encourage you to reach out to our team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic if you feel your other conservative treatments at home have not been enough. We specialize in treating medical issues with minimally or noninvasive procedures and therapies, including specific lasers. We can help you move past your tennis elbow case.

Home Treatments for Tennis Elbow Not Enough? Contact NJ Spine & Orthopedic for Specialized Support and Recovery

If you’re struggling with tennis elbow and looking for effective at-home treatments, NJ Spine & Orthopedic is here to help. For innovative and minimally invasive treatments that you can trust, contact our elbow specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic today! Our team of experts provides comprehensive care and practical advice to manage and alleviate your symptoms from the comfort of your home. Whether it’s recommending specific exercises, stretches, or self-care techniques, we are committed to supporting your journey to recovery.

For personalized guidance and professional support, contact NJ Spine & Orthopedic today. Call us at (866) 553-0612 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation. Don’t let tennis elbow hinder your daily activities – reach out to us and take the first step towards a pain-free life.

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